Review: ‘The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul’ Deborah Rodriguez

In a little coffee shop in one of the most dangerous places on earth, five very different women come together.

Sunny, the proud proprietor, who needs an ingenious plan – and fast – to keep her café and customers safe.

Yazmina, a young pregnant woman stolen from her remote village and now abandoned on Kabul’s violent streets.

Candace, a wealthy American who has finally left her husband for her Afghan lover, the enigmatic Wakil.

Isabel, a determined journalist with a secret that might keep her from the biggest story of her life.

And Halajan, the sixty-year-old den mother, whose long-hidden love affair breaks all the rules.

As these five women discover there’s more to one another than meets the eye, they form a unique bond that will for ever change their lives and the lives of many others.

Way back in the BC era (Before Covid, of course), I could often be found in a coffee shop on my days off. As a writer, I find coffee shops to be a great source of inspiration when it comes to conjuring up characters for my latest story. Be it a city centre chain coffee shop like Starbucks or a tiny independent place off the beaten track, coffee shops are the melting pots of society. They’re frequented by people from every walk of life, from business people grabbing their morning lattes to students sipping at mochas as they type away on their laptops. Coffee seems to unite people in a way that other beverages don’t. In short, I find coffee shops fascinating. My love for coffee shops means that I enjoy reading books that are either set in one or revolve around one, which is why I was looking forward to reading The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul when it was announced as the October read for a local book club.

I’m going to be honest, when I realised that three of the five central characters were either from the US or the UK, I inwardly cringed. I was worried that this was simply going to be a story about the ‘Western saviour’, or rather Western women ‘liberating’ Afghan women by enforcing their own values on them.

I was wrong, though. There’s a scene in which Candace is trying to encourage her friends to play matchmaker. When they remind her that Afghanistan has different customs when it comes relationships, she asks one of the coffee shop’s Afghan employees if he wants change in his country, if he wants it to be more modern and tolerant. The employee replies that yes, he does want to see change, but he wants that change to be “from the inside out”, that he wants Afghans to change Afghanistan. He then goes on to state that he’s tired of everyone (ie. Westerners) treating Afghans like babies that can’t figure things out for themselves. In another scene, one American character notes that Americans infantilise everyone not like them. It was refreshing to read passages like this. It was refreshing to read a book about Afghanistan that doesn’t paint its Afghan characters as people in need of ‘enlightenment’.

Before The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul, I hadn’t read any novels set in Afghanistan. I don’t know much about the country either, save for what I’ve seen in news reports about its people’s ongoing struggle against the Taliban. I know that the Taliban isn’t what defines Afghanistan, though. It’s a culturally and historically rich place and I’m glad that I could experience some of it vicariously through Deborah Rodriguez’s evocative writing. The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul is many things, but if I were to sum it up in three words, I’d say that it’s heart-warming, heart-breaking and thought-provoking.

Have you read The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul? Let me know in the comments.

Want to read The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul? You can buy your copy through Hive, World of Books or through your local bookstore.

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10 comments

    • You should go on your own! I always felt weird going to coffee shops or cafes on my own, but when I was living in Japan, I saw that pretty much everyone did it. I started doing it myself and I carried on when I came back to the UK. Going to a coffee shop on my own to do some reading or writing is one of my favourite things to do 😁

      Liked by 1 person

      • I do from time to time as my friend owns a cafe, so I like to go there when I can.

        Just kind of want the social aspect seeing as how I live alone. Going out alone just feels too much like my day to day life.

        Jealous that you lived in Japan. Their food looks gorgeous 😍

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, I can understand that. Hopefully once things are back to some kind of normality, you’ll be able to get out and see people a bit more. I imagine living on your own hasn’t been easy this year with the first lockdown and now the second.

        Yeah, I was fortunate enough to teach English there for a year. The food was great, but I’m a vegetarian which isn’t really a ‘thing’ over there. Made going to restaurants quite challenging sometimes 😂

        Like

      • Oh, lord … being a vegetarian (or worse, a vegan) in Japan is nearly as bad as relying on oxygen if you live under the sea.

        I’ve not found living alone during the pandemic too bad at all. Enjoy my own company and have plenty of hobbies. The time has flown by

        Liked by 1 person

      • Haha exactly! The amount of times I’d order a supposedly veggie meal only to find random scraps of meat in it was unreal. I miss Japan, but I don’t miss my limited diet 😂

        I’m pleased you’ve been doing okay throughout the pandemic. I honestly don’t know how I would have coped on my own, but that’s mainly down to my anxiety.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Suppose being a single man, I’m used to being alone. So it’s not a massively far stretch.
        Blogging has helped occupy me. Although I’ve pretty much ran out of stuff for my Read but nit forgotten series’ … need something else non-reviewy. Did ‘blogger appreciation’ recently but don’t want to do that too frequently as it loses it’s meaning and feels more like a ‘here’s a medal for participating’ kind of thing 😂
        Plus a lot of veggie meals are cooked in fish or animal juices anyway over there 🙈

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I agree wholeheartedly with the observation that “coffee unites people”. That said I have two recommendations, each relevant to this post. The first is to check out a series I found called ‘Kabul Kitchen”. It is in French but dubbed in English on DVD. It is funny yet also a serious and thought provoking depiction of how life is in Kabul, and how Afghans view western “help”. The second one I make is little self-serving. It you are looking for a novel this is both “set in and revolves around” a coffee shop then look into my historical fiction novel, Tripio: set in an early Starbucks location in Chicago in the summer of 1992. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for the recommendations! I see ‘Kabul Kitchen’ is on Amazon Prime so I’ll give it a go. I’m always on the lookout for new things to watch, especially things that are interesting and thought-provoking. I’ve also just had a look at your novel on Amazon and it sounds right up my street so I’ll definitely be ordering myself a copy!

      Liked by 1 person

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